"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, September 15, 2014

Innovation and Reform in Education, Applied to My Child?

I am always tempted to ask those who have ideas on how to teach children or run schools whether they would apply the same to their own children and the schools their children attend. Neither the current secretary of DepEd nor the president of the Philippines would be able to answer that question. Still, perhaps we could ask whether it would apply to their nephews or nieces, if they have any. In the US, for example, where there is much talk about massive online open courses (MOOC), it would be interesting to find out if any of the advocates of this program actually send their children to a MOOC and not to a traditional college or university. I often wonder what the responses may be.

Last week, an interesting article that tackles a similar question was published in the New York Times:

And it is not just the late Steve Jobs who strictly limited technology use at home. There are other chief executives who share a similar parenting style. Below is an excerpt:
Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and now chief executive of 3D Robotics, a drone maker, has instituted time limits and parental controls on every device in his home. “My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules,” he said of his five children, 6 to 17. “That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.” 
The dangers he is referring to include exposure to harmful content like pornography, bullying from other kids, and perhaps worse of all, becoming addicted to their devices, just like their parents...
...Children under 10 seem to be most susceptible to becoming addicted, so these parents draw the line at not allowing any gadgets during the week. On weekends, there are limits of 30 minutes to two hours on iPad and smartphone use. And 10- to 14-year-olds are allowed to use computers on school nights, but only for homework....
"Innovation and Reform in Education, Applied to My Child?" is an interesting question. Apparently, the responses are likewise interesting....

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Copying from Educational Systems Abroad

"A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing." That is why scientific work requires identification and control of every variable that may affect the outcomes being measured or observed. Establishing causation requires much more than just discovering a correlation. Ignoring these rules can easily lead to conclusions being drawn without the proper basis. It is very tempting to find a "smoking gun" that explains what is sought. The intentions are often good, to copy what seems to be working. Not covering all bases, however, only leads to failure especially when important points are missed. Some countries are doing much better in international exams on mathematics so it is only reasonable to look at these countries, learn from them, and transfer the good things about their system to ours. An example of such thinking is illustrated by a piece published several months ago in the New York Times. It is an article by Elizabeth Green, "Why Do Americans Stink at Math?". The following is an excerpt:
"...Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves. One day, for example, the young students would derive the formula for finding the area of a rectangle; the next, they would use what they learned to do the same for parallelograms. Taught this new way, math itself seemed transformed. It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun...."
Green basically attributes the success of Japanese schools in teaching math on a constructivist pedagogy and then suggests that the reason why American schools are not successful is the lack of training of teachers on how to implement effectively these lessons. Tom Loveless has an article in Brookings that debunk Green's assertion. Loveless writes:
"The July 27, 2014 edition of the New York Times Sunday Magazine featured an article by Elizabeth Green entitled “Why Do Americans Stink at Math?” In this blog post, I identify six myths promulgated in that article. Let me be clear at the outset. I am an admirer of Elizabeth Green’s journalism and am sympathetic to the idea that improving teaching would raise American math achievement. But this article is completely off base. Its most glaring mistake is giving the impression that a particular approach to mathematics instruction—referred to over the past half-century as “progressive,” “constructivist,” “discovery,” or “inquiry-based”—is the answer to improving mathematics learning in the U.S. That belief is not supported by evidence...."
One evidence that Loveless cites is the following:

Teachers’ Reports on How Often They Ask Students to Do Reasoning Tasks
Never or Almost Never
Some Lessons
Most Lessons
Every Lesson
7%   (594)
55% (604)
37% (608)
24% (495)
50% (498)
26% (514)
Source: Table 5.11, IEA Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), 1994-1995, page 160.
The above clearly shows that the difference between American and Japanese students of about 100 points is maintained across the board. It does not matter whether a student receives “progressive,” “constructivist,” “discovery,” or “inquiry-based” instruction. And among Japanese students, having more lessons that require reasoning tasks leads to only small differences. Another point that Loveless raises is the shadow education in Japan called juku. The Economist had an article on juku several years ago:
Above copied from The Economist
These "cramming schools" in Japan, as Loveless is suggesting, may be a significant factor behind the difference between the performance of Japanese and American students:
"...An alternative hypothesis to Green’s story is this: perhaps because of jukus Japanese teachers can take their students’ fluency with mathematical procedures for granted and focus lessons on problem solving and conceptual understanding. American teachers, on the other hand, must teach procedural fluency or it is not taught at all...."
Shadow education is very pervasive especially in Asian countries that have done well recently in international exams, as illustrated in a study published recently in the Journal of International and Comparative Education:

The scope of shadow education in Asian countries is vast, capturing the majority of all students. The statistics above must give pause to anyone claiming that the success in schools in these countries may be emulated by simply copying their curriculum and pedagogy. That would not be accurate at all if shadow education, which is significant, is ignored. Ignoring shadow education means dismissing rote approaches to learning. That would be a huge mistake....

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Celebrating Teachers' Month (September 5 to October 5)

In the Philippines, an entire month (September 5 to October 5) is dedicated to recognizing teachers by virtue of a proclamation made by the current president in 2011. The month ends on October 5, which coincides with the world's celebration of Teachers' Day. This year, the post office of the Philippines has issued a special stamp expressing gratitude to teachers in the Philippines:

Above photo copied from Philippine Star
The representative of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Antonio Tinio, in the Philippine Congress speaks about how the Philippine government is urging its citizens to show appreciation of teachers:
"“To express sincere gratitude for teachers,” DepEd has advised its regional and division offices and students to give “thank you” cards, free makeover and spa treatments, discounts, or freebies to teachers, also to hang streamers and hold contests to honor teachers, from September 5 to October 5."

It is disheartening to watch the video and see how many seats in Congress are empty and hear people engaging in conversations in the background as Tinio speaks. Still the message should be clear. As Tinio states, "The most meaningful way of commemorating National Teachers’ Month, the most sincere expression of gratitude for our children’s second parents, is by giving full effect to their rights—to living salary, adequate remuneration, stability of employment and security of tenure, professional advancement, union rights, among others."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Martial Arts as an Intervention Tool in Basic Education

In search for innovations in education, we frequently look at new tools or technology. There is no doubt that computers, for example, can aid in education. However, there is a distinct possibility that some methods we have inherited from past generations can do the same. After all, basic education has been a human endeavor for so long.

One key determinant in learning is the executive function of the brain. The executive function includes self-control, staying focused, discipline, and flexibility. Without these capabilities, learning can become a very difficult task. It is one reason why classroom management in the early years is particularly important. Of course, in the old days, discipline was strictly enforced in each classroom. Nowadays, independence combined with a sense of responsibility is preferred. This new way obviously demands a lot more from a child's executive function. It is clear that children vary from each other in the way they develop executive function. Some demonstrate the ability quite early while some are a bit late especially children who have an attention deficit - hyperactive disorder as well as those who fit in the autism spectrum disorder. But even without these disorders, it is no secret that developing executive function is a challenging task.

Executive function is truly central to the future of a child. A study published in the Proc. Natl. Acad. USA by Moffitt and coworkers states in its abstract, "Following a cohort of 1,000 children from birth to the age of 32 y, we show that childhood self-control predicts physical health, substance dependence, personal finances, and criminal offending outcomes, following a gradient of self-control. Effects of children's self-control could be disentangled from their intelligence and social class as well as from mistakes they made as adolescents. In another cohort of 500 sibling-pairs, the sibling with lower self-control had poorer outcomes, despite shared family background. Interventions addressing self-control might reduce a panoply of societal costs, save taxpayers money, and promote prosperity."

Thus, developing executive function is necessary for basic education. There have been various executive function interventions that have already been studied and evaluated. A review published in Science in 2011 examines some of these:

To be successful takes creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline. Central to all those are executive functions, including mentally playing with ideas, giving a considered rather than an impulsive response, and staying focused. Diverse activities have been shown to improve children’s executive functions: computerized training, noncomputerized games, aerobics, martial arts, yoga, mindfulness, and school curricula. All successful programs involve repeated practice and progressively increase the challenge to executive functions. Children with worse executive functions benefit most from these activities; thus, early executive-function training may avert widening achievement gaps later. To improve executive functions, focusing narrowly on them may not be as effective as also addressing emotional and social development (as do curricula that improve executive functions) and physical development (shown by positive effects of aerobics, martial arts, and yoga).

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Trends in US Teaching Force

Ingersoll, Merrill and Stuckey from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, University of Pennsylvania have looked closely at data on teachers in the United States to explore what changes have occurred within the teaching force during the past 25 years. In their report, Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force, they pointed out the following: Teachers in 2012 compared to teachers in 1987 are larger in numbers, younger, less experienced, more female, more diverse by ethnicity, similar in academic abilities, and are less likely to stay teaching. Here are some of the graphs that support the above trends (copied from the original report):

The number of teachers has grown faster than students. The higher increase in the number of teachers can be attributed to a variety of reasons such as reduction in classroom sizes, special education, english language learners, and preschool education.

The above graph actually captures critical turning points in time. The average age of a teacher may have indeed increased from 1987 to 2007, but this trend would now reverse. In 1987, the age distribution is much narrower with a mode (most common age) of 41. In 2007, the distribution became much broader with a new mode at 55. But in 2011, the mode has dramatically dropped to 30. The younger age, of course, correlates with teachers in 2011 having less experience than those in 1987:

Another trend that is continuing is that more and more teachers are female:

It is interesting to compare the above trends with those in the Philippines.

In the United States, during 1987-2011, the number of teachers grew twice as fast as the students. In the Philippines, using the period 2004 to 2010, the number of teachers has grown by 11.4%, which is not that large compared to how fast the number of pupils has increased: 8.2%. Thus, there is no surprise that in the Philippines the pupil to teacher ratio has remained very high.

With regard to age, the distribution for teachers is obviously grayer:

Nearly half of elementary school teachers are more than 50 years old, with 16% above 60 in 2009.

There are similarities and there are differences. But one data point that applies only to the Philippines is shown in the following table:

The United States is the top destination of Philippine teachers deployed abroad. It is useful to look at these trends. These provide meaningful snapshots of the teaching force of a country. These can either raise serious concerns or comfort....

Monday, September 8, 2014

Efficiency and Effectiveness of a School System

The school system can be viewed as a production line that has both input and output. The starting materials are the resources while the education outcomes comprise the result. Considering the output and comparing this with what went in can provide a rough measure for efficiency. An efficient system is one that achieves so much even with quite limited resources. A recent report attempts to assess the efficiency of school systems worldwide by taking into account teacher salaries and pupil to teacher ratio as indicators of input and test scores in an international standardized test score as a gauge for the output:

To read the report, visit this link
The results of the study are summarized in the following ranking:

According the above ranking, countries have also been divided into the following five groups:
GROUP 1 Elite Performers : There is always room for improvement despite the fact that these countries score well in both the efficiency and quality stakes. 
1 Finland | 2 Japan | 3 Korea 
GROUP 2 Efficient and Effective : These countries are doing relatively well on both efficiency and producing high PISA scores. They are not in the Elite benchmark countries but they are close. 
14 Australia | 15 Czech Republic | 20 New Zealand | 22 Slovenia 
GROUP 3 More Effective than Efficient : Overspending or bloated These countries perform better in quality measures than in terms of efficiency. This may be because they can prioritise outcomes over cost, it may be because their system generates other outcomes that aren’t captured by PISA rankings. Or more simply, it may be because the system is over-resourced beyond a threshold required to drive quality increases. 
4 Austria | 5 Belgium | 6 Denmark | 7 Germany | 8 Ireland | 9 Italy 10 Netherlands | 11 Portugal | 12 Spain | 13 Switzerland 
GROUP 4 More Efficient than Effective : Underspending or underperforming These countries, by comparison, are more efficient than educationally effective. This could be for the simple reason that they have constraints which prevent their system from moving to the next level (e.g. low salaries may prevent the teaching profession from being able to recruit highly skilled individuals). More interestingly, if extensive resources are already being deployed, it could be the case that underlying flaws exist in the education delivery model – the system has the potential to increase outputs for no additional inputs by making policy changes. 
16 France | 17 Hungary | 18 Iceland | 19 Israel | 21 Norway | 23 Sweden | 24 UK | 25 USA 
GROUP 5 Inefficient and Ineffective : These systems are inefficient and at the same time do not produce comparatively good outcomes. The ultimate ambition is to occupy a space in the upper-right quadrant, but progression either horizontally or vertically (increasing quality or efficiency) in the first instance could be the catalyst to drive improvements in both dimensions. 
26 Brazil | 27 Chile | 28 Greece | 29 Indonesia | 30 Turkey

The Philippines is not included in the above study but it is quite straightforward to determine where it belongs. The Philippines in its brief participation in international exams ranks similarly to Indonesia. How much the Philippines invests in public education in terms of teachers' salaries and classroom sizes is likewise as dismal as those in Indonesia. Thus, the Philippines clearly belongs to the Inefficient and Ineffective Group.

Effectiveness requires minimum input. With classroom shortages and poor working conditions for teachers, the Philippines cannot expect a good outcome from its school system. Philippine basic education also suffers in terms of efficiency. The reason here is its focus on excellence and competition. There are elite schools that are very selective in its enrollment and at the same time, these schools likewise attract the best teachers. Hence, much of the resources which are already severely limited go to where these are least needed. The emphasis on excellence sacrifices equity. Students who need most and schools that require more resources are simply neglected and ignored. Such school system therefore takes pride in producing quite a few excellent alumni while leaving most of the population poorly educated. Clearly, in order for the Philippines to improve its education system, it must dramatically change its culture. It must switch from a focus on excellence to an emphasis on equity. This addresses efficiency and solves half of the problem. For the other half, there is no solution other than increasing the budget for education. The number of children in the Philippines has grown significantly in the past decade. This alone requires greater funding.

With the above in mind, it should be crystal clear that changing the curriculum does not address any of these problems. DepEd's K+12 does not and can not solve the problems of Philippine basic education.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

K-12 implementation - years of being condemned by DepEd

By Joy Rizal

When DepEd decided how to implement its K-12 program, it must have seemed like a good idea to phase it in one year at a time, following one class of students each year. Hypothetically, allowing the students to receive new books and material each year. Unfortunately the condemned children of the k-12 implementation class have yet to see a textbook or any learning modules until so late in the school year that the materials are useless (assuming they receive anything at all).

Each year DepEd seems to do nothing more than slightly modifying their “standard cut and paste promises” that all students will be receiving personal textbooks, learning modules, have smaller class sizes, etc. Then has the audacity to give basically the same excuses year after year when the materials do not show up.

However, this year I will have to give DepEd credit, while they have not improved the education in schools, still not been able to deliver learning material, and still ignore and a long list of serious issues within the education system, they have gotten more efficient at one thing.

They are now combining their promises and excuses into one statement.

As demonstrated in their June Statement regarding learning materials.

June 5, 2014

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Education (DepEd) assured yesterday most of the public schools, including those in Yolanda-devastated areas, have sufficient learning materials this school year.

DepEd Assistant Secretary Jesus Mateo said the learning materials are also available in the DepEd Learning Portal, which addresses delivery problems.

“The learning materials that we provide the schools are now in digital format. We install the learning materials in the DepEd portal so the schools with access to the Internet can download them,” Mateo said. The computerization program is part of the DepEd’s regular budget.

Meanwhile, Mateo said they have provided new textbooks and other teaching resources to schools damaged by Yolanda last year. TDepEd has buffer stocks of textbooks.

Mateo said the agency has already addressed the 2010 backlog in textbooks, attaining a 1:1 student to textbook ratio.

DepEd has continued to deliver the learning materials for Grades 3 and 9.

A new curriculum for Grades 3 and 9 will be introduced this year under the K to 12 program.

“So far, there are a few schools which have not received the learning materials yet maybebecause of the delay in delivery or procurement,” Mateo said.
- - -

The books will be delivered except for a few schools? One has to love political double talk. Apparently the few areas that might not receive learning materials are regions I, II, III, IVA&B, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX X, XI, XII. That is just a few areas out of the whole country, isn’t it? Oh wait a minute that is The Whole Country! Should we mention to Mateo that the current year is 2014? Or is anyone within DepEd even honest enough to admit that fixing backlog issues from 4+ years ago is irrelevant with regards to today’s backlogs and lack of materials? And why "maybe because of"? Shouldn't DepEd KNOW why materials are not being delivered? (or do they just need to make up a story to try to hide the truth?)

So basically what Mateo seems to be saying, DepEd has a big budget to print and deliver physical books/materials but the only thing that will be available is a Digital copy, hidden somewhere on the internet. Or as we found last year some material might, possibly, be located in password-protected areas that only some people within DepEd can apparently access.

Now in all fairness I cannot say ALL the regions did not receive any material. However, I can say that I have not seen any schools in northern Mindanao whose students have received any of the promised materials for this year’s k-12 implementation.

As for the alleged digital copy of materials available for schools, very few schools have a computer, fewer have Internet access, and even fewer have any computer systems for student use. Plus no one seems to know what the web page address is of the alleged digital copies of the books and learning materials that are being used in the classrooms. Even scarier is the fact that there have been some within DepEd we asked about the web page address of the digital copies that did not even know what a web page address is. (I am sure a digital copy of learning material will be very useful to those people.)

Then let us not forget per DepEd’s own instructions, in essence, stating that our children are not to be given a photocopy of material for use, nor are copies to be given to parents so they can help their children with subject areas that are difficult for their child. As it was stated last year by DepEd:
“Instruction has already been given to the School Heads to instruct their teachers to employ teaching strategies that will effect learning without the need of the photocopy.”
So our students get no books, no hands on learning material, nothing will be copied for student use and instructors won’t or “do not have time” to tell parents what they are teaching in class. Then when a child does poorly on their test it is somehow the parent’s fault for not helping the child study better. After all, DepEd has done everything they are required to do for our children’s education. Thus, none of the problems are their responsibility. Or as it was so quaintly stated by some of our local DepEd employees, “Learning material for students IS NOT OUR PROBLEM”.

One has to start wondering how incompetent, how dim-witted, how corrupt, how immoral, the people within The Philippine Department of Education have become, to make these statements or to ALLOW the same problems to occur that condemn our children, and our nation, year after year. One would think that if anyone in The Department of Education was even remotely trying to make good on the promises of a better education for our children, we would not see nearly the exact same serious problems with the same lame excuses given year after year.

There comes a point with buildings when a building is so termite ridden and so structurally unsound that trying to repair it is unrealistic. The best option is to condemn the building, rip it down/burn it to the ground and rebuild from scratch. I fear this is the problem with The Philippine Education System. From the local level to the highest ranks, the system simply has to many corrupt individuals (termites) that are always undermining any attempt to improving the system. We have learning material (if it shows up) that is so riddled with errors it sometimes seems that students put the material together rather than educated adults. Not to mention recourses, and other funds that never reach their intended destination, gross overcharging of materials, etc., etc., etc. All of which is defended and ignored by not only DepEd, but also by the very groups that are suppose to be overseeing DepEd to insure that none of the abuses we continue to see year after year happen in the first place.

Perhaps it is time that we shut down our current Department of Education, literally removing every employee, contractor, anyone that has any affiliation with Our Current Education System. Then rebuild the department so that EVERY meeting is required to be broadcast live online, recorded and posted publicly online (for literally everyone to see) be it national, local or even international. Have every book, learning packet, supplemental material anything given to our children for every class available online for ANYONE to view at anytime (with no password protections and with web WebPage addresses and links posted publicly and also given freely when anyone asks for it.) With publishers and printers spot checked (also recorded and posted publicly) to insure that they are meeting their printing and delivery deadlines. I would be tempted to say that even the classrooms and local school administration offices should have live broadcast monitoring.

Sadly our education system seems to have so many immoral, dishonest individuals that continue to defend the corruption and dishonest actions of others that it is creating even more problems within DepEd. It seems the only way root out and keep "the termites" out is to require a constant publicly available "microscopic eye" on every person elected, hired, contracted, etc. that has ANY interaction with the Department of Education.

Or as the Late Raul Roco (former Secretary of Education) use to put it.

If you let the sunshine in, all the germs will die.

Friday, September 5, 2014

How Do Children Learn Math?

If an adult still uses one's fingers to evaluate a product like 3 multiplied by 3, legitimate concerns can be raised regarding that adult's mathematical aptitude. If an adult manages to solve 3 multiplied by 3 by considering 3 groups of 3, and going through 3, 6, 9, similarly, questions can be reasonably asked regarding that adult's capability. Adults simply retrieve 9 from their minds as the answer to 3 times 3, no processing required. Adults solve problems oftentimes by just pulling the answer from their memory. This is a simple retrieval of facts from memory. In this manner, the human brain is quite similar to a computer. A computer uses both memory and storage so that it does not have to burden its processor with every operation.

The suggestion that the way humans think is similar to that of a computer should somehow help us understand why learning requires both content and skills. Acquiring skills is necessary so that processing information becomes possible but content is equally important since most problems need not be solved from scratch every time. Even problems that are yet to be solved usually take cues from somewhere. After all, higher-order thinking does involve the ability to transfer, think critically, and solve problems. All of these require remembering some information.

Of course, all of the above may just be a product of our own imagination. All of the above may just be a result of our own metacognition. It is therefore reasonable to question if there is any physiological data that support the way we imagine how our brain works. There is now. Science Daily recently reported the following:

Above copied from Science Daily
The study highlighted in the above news article has been recently published in Nature Neuroscience:
The chart below (copied from the paper) illustrates what can be behaviorally observed:

The chart above simply illustrates that as we grow older, we do retrieve from our memory answers to arithmetic problems. This is vastly different from our early childhood years during which we still rely on counting with our fingers. The above changes in behavior are found to correlate with changes in the activity within the brain. Below is a chart (also copied from the paper) that displays an increase in activity inside the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in memory retrieval:

T1 and T2 correspond to the same time periods shown in the previous graph (T1 is when the children were 8 years old and T2 is when these children were 9). Science Daily describes the results of the study with the following more publicly digestible paragraph:
During the study, as the children aged from an average of 8.2 to 9.4 years, they became faster and more accurate at solving math problems, and relied more on retrieving math facts from memory and less on counting. As these shifts in strategy took place, the researchers saw several changes in the children's brains. The hippocampus, a region with many roles in shaping new memories, was activated more in children's brains after one year. Regions involved in counting, including parts of the prefrontal and parietal cortex, were activated less.
So perhaps, our previous discussion is in fact not merely a product of our own imagination. And the teachers we have had forty years ago knew all along that we had to memorize the multiplication table....

Thursday, September 4, 2014

DepEd's K+12 Ignores the Real Problems of Basic Education in the Philippines

Back in grade school, I had a classmate whose response to any question a teacher asks is reciting his name. The teacher would ask, "What is 2+2?" and he simply answers the question with his name. In so many ways, DepEd's K+12 is similar. What is primarily wrong with DepEd's K+12 is that it ignores what the real problems Philippine basic education currently faces.

Larry Cuban, a former high school social studies teacher (14 years), district superintendent (7 years) and university professor (20 years) at Stanford University has the following cartoon that captures what is wrong with most education reforms:

Above copied from Cuban's blog on School Reform and Classroom Practice
The above cartoon comes with a pledge school reformers should take:
Reformers’ Pledge of Good Conduct 

I will not overpromise.
I will not disrespect teachers.
I will not do anything behind the principal’s back.
I will not take part in any partisan or personal feuds.
I will not equate disagreement with “resistance.”
I will not put down other programs.
I will not expect change overnight.
I will take time to study the history of reforms similar to mine.
I will not try to scale up prematurely.
If I am not in the field myself, I will take seriously what field workers tell me.
I will give school people realistic estimates of how much time and money it takes to implement my program.
The Philippines' DepEd K+12 reform obviously missed this pledge. There is no argument that it has overpromised for example.  The second pledge, not disrespecting teachers requires so much more than just mere lip service. This point is very important unless one completely discounts the central role a teacher plays in educating our children. The K+12 program of the Philippines puts all of its faith in the curriculum as the sole determinant of the quality of education. Nothing could be further from the truth. Simply defining what students should be taught hardly addresses the real problems public school education faces. One can go through each line of the above pledge and with each line, it becomes almost a certainty that DepEd's K+12 would fail. In fact, with just the first two lines, it is clear that DepEd's K+12 is wrong. Central to addressing the quality of basic education is the teacher and K+12 does nothing for the teacher.

It is well known that behind the successful education systems around the globe are effective teachers. To have effective teachers, attention must be paid to the following:

  • teacher preparation (how are teachers trained in colleges of education)
  • professional development 
  • working conditions (salaries, resources and materials, pupil to teacher ratio)

With regard to teacher preparation, Darling-Hammond has the following slide to drive this point home:


With regard to professional development, Darling-Hammond writes "One-shot workshops do not have positive effects."
Without the right working conditions, a teacher cannot be effective. Salaries that do not meet the costs of living take away the much needed attention to teaching. Lack of quality instructional and learning materials makes teaching very difficult. Large classroom sizes likewise prevent the teacher from giving the attention each student needs. In addition to teachers, there are other factors that are important. And, yes, the curriculum comes in, but only in terms of being lean. We cannot expect everything from education and we must not require everything. The curriculum is not a wish-list. 

Darling-Hammond enumerates characteristics that play a major role in defining successful education systems:

The above list is surely a good place to start. For one, it stays true to one of the pledges, "I will take time to study the history of reforms similar to mine."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Is Wrong with DepEd's K+12?

There is so much focus on the additional two years at the end of high school that not much attention has been given to the other changes that have been made with the introduction of the new curriculum. One aspect that sets apart Philippine schools from those in other countries is the number of instructional hours intended for the early grades. The following is a chart that shows the number of instructional hours required for the early grades in elementary school:
Chart based on OECD Data 
At the bottom of this chart is the Philippines. DepEd's K+12 prescribes 240 minutes of instruction per day during the first semester of first grade, 270 minutes per day for the second semester of first grade, and 310 minutes per day for second grade. A school year in the Philippines consists of 200 days. The short instructional hours in the Philippines are in part imposed by shortages in teachers and classrooms, necessitating multiple shifts.

There is really no difference between absenteeism and extremely short instructional hours. In fact, the short instructional hours may even promote absenteeism. When I first criticized DepEd's K+12, I made the following comment:
Last but not the least (in fact, this point is crucial), the proposed K plus 12 curriculum also involves short school hours. This seems to be an attempt to enable multiple shifts in the schools. This goes against decongesting the curriculum. It likewise does not make it worthwhile for schoolchildren especially those who have to travel far to attend school. This also opens opportunities for child labor as well as greater environmental (outside of school) influences on children education. Elementary schools in the US are full day so that students do have time to cover the material and, at the same time, it allows parents to work and be more productive. A full day in school means less television, less video games, less time on the streets, and less other activities that do not contribute to a sound education of the young.
There is no doubt that absenteeism affects education outcomes. These are the latest data from Attendance Works in the United States:

Above figure copied from Attendance Works
Doing some simple math here, 3 days of absence in one month translates to missing about 15% of school hours. This results in a reduction of 11 points in reading and 13 points in math. A 10 point drop in this scale is roughly equivalent to falling behind by one year in elementary school. Going back to the total number of instructional hours pupils in the early grades in the Philippines receives, it is clear that these students are missing at least 15% of instructional time compared to those in other countries. It is therefore not surprising why students in the Philippines are falling way behind children in other countries. In the Philippines, one does not have to be chronically absent. The curriculum simply has made this automatic....